The Georgetown University Medical Center named Susan Cheng the first senior associate dean of diversity and inclusion in August. She is heading a new office focusing on fostering diversity across the institution.
Formerly called the Office of Minority Student Development, Cheng’s office is now called the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
“The focus is really looking at increasing and cultivating diversity and inclusion among students, staff and faculty at the School of Medicine,” Cheng said. “I’m excited that I get the chance to really impact the school culture at the Georgetown School of Medicine by really partnering with other faculty members and staff, and actually the students, to make it more of a comprehensive approach to diversity and inclusion.”
In the first month of her position, Cheng created the Council on Diversity Affairs, an advisory board comprised of students, staff and faculty members that will give the dean the opportunity to collaborate with other GUMC members on issues dealing with diversity.
She has also established the Innovations on Diversity and Inclusion Team, a program that offers internships in her office that are open to undergraduates. Students will be able to conduct research on new policies that increase diversity and inclusivity.
The program has already recruited Georgetown College and School of Foreign Service students, and has received applications from American University students.
Cheng highlighted the importance of a collaborative effort in developing diversity and spoke of her excitement as she takes on this new role.
“I don’t think diversity lies within just one office or one person. I think it’s going to be embedded in a lot of different collaborations and partnerships amongst offices, and, like I said, faculty, staff and students, to make a very rich community that supports diversity and inclusion,” Cheng said.
Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Equity Rosemary Kilkenny expressed the need to reach out to underrepresented students and to fight health disparities.
“The need is still very much there for medical and health practitioners from underrepresented communities to have such educational opportunities,” Kilkenny wrote in an email to The Hoya. “It is also important to continue examining how best to eradicate health disparities. I am excited about continuing our work in these areas and I welcome a partnership with Dr. Cheng as we strive to address these common goals and interests.”
Luke Brown (COL ’17), one of the interns on the Innovations in Diversity and Inclusion Team, praised Cheng’s leadership in her new role.
“My hope is that Dean Cheng can use her expertise in leadership development and educational access to foster new ways of recruiting and retaining medical students from historically marginalized communities,” Brown wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Dean Cheng has already begun the process of designing new ways of engaging prospective students, augmenting the services, programs, and student organizations already in place, and incorporating the larger campus in conversations focused on diversity and inclusion.”
Michael Sobalvarro (COL ’16), another intern on the team, highlighted Cheng’s continuous commitment and positive energy.
“Dr. Cheng is very motivated,” Sobalvarro wrote in an email to The Hoya. “We have autonomy between ourselves to discuss and execute projects, but Dr. Cheng knows exactly when to chime in, and direct the workflow. She’s like an orchestrator and we’re the musicians.”
Before Cheng, Joy Williams held the role of senior associate dean for students and special programs for 35 years before retiring in July 2014. She established the Georgetown Experimental Medical Studies Program, which sought to bring students underrepresented in medicine into the field. The GEMS has educated more than 400 students, around 80 percent of whom completed medical school.
Dean for Medical Education Dr. Stephen Ray Mitchell is confident in Cheng’s ability to contribute to inclusivity at GUMC.
“Susan Cheng is a remarkable woman who will provide the deserved tribute to the decades of work by Dean Joy Williams to challenge us all to live up to our Jesuit mission of reaching out to all individuals regardless of origins,” Mitchell wrote in an email to The Hoya. “It is an exciting time that this remarkable young woman joins the team to maintain this wonderful momentum.”